Things to do before calling your IT GEEK in a panic!

We all have problems on our computer from time to time – yes, even the “experts” get screen lock-ups occasionally. Those of us who’ve been working with computers for a long time have a mental list of things we try first.

Thanks to the foresight of Bill Gates (Ctrl/Alt/Delete & the “5 second reboot key”) and Microsoft (Windows’ self repairing technology in Windows 10), if nothing significant has changed recently on your PC, one of these “actions” could well dig you out of the proverbial. 

So, next time something untoward happens on your PC, before hitting the PANIC button and calling your favourite IT “Geek” for help, you should try these suggestions (in order) first…

Step 1
Try to capture the problem – screenshots are great!

These simple steps could save big $$$ if you end up calling your GEEK

  • If you are getting a persistent error message, write it down or better, use your smartphone to take a photo of it. This may be your only option if your PC has frozen
  • Or, using the new “Windows Ink Workspace Tool” or the older “Snipping Tool” to capture the error message or wonky screen. Save the resulting image to a file –  ideally on a memory stick.
  • Note down what you were trying to do at the time the problem occurred
  • It’s always important to retain every little bit of information even if you think it’s “stupid”.

Step 2
Try to Save your work

  • Try everything you can to save your work.
  • If the normal Drop-downs (File, Save..) don’t work, try pressing Ctrl S
  • Any unsaved work will be lost when your computer shuts down
  • If you’ve typed or drawn something on the screen, you might consider simply writing it down (or duplicating a drawing) on a piece of paper before proceeding – this will help later when you’re redoing the work

Hint: Consider turning “Autosave” on if it’s available in your application
(eg Office, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, most drawing tools and many games)

Step 3
Try “Killing” the Application

This only applies if a single application is locked-up. When this happens, the mouse will still move around and other applications will work properly.

  • Press the three keys Ctrl + Alt + Delete simultaniously
    Known to insiders as the “Three-fingered salute”!
  • When the screen shown on the right appears, click Task Manager
  • You now need to find the application (“Task”) that has locked up, select it (click once) and then click the End Task Button
  • NB: You may get a much larger Task Manager Screen with 7 tabs on it. Click the “Fewer Details” arrow and then proceed as above
  • Close the Task Manager window (click the X in the top right-hand corner) and then try restarting your application.

Hint 1: If your application persistently locks-up, kill it and then restart the PC (Start, Power, Restart) before restarting the application

Hint 2: With the exception of these circumstances, I don’t recommend playing around in the Task Manager unless you are a confident PC User and know what you’re doing!.

Step 4
Turn your PC off, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on

This only applies if the whole PC is locked-up (although sometimes the mouse still moves about but nothing happens when you click things).

Microsoft have excelled themselves with Windows 10 and it’s self-repairing capabilties. Basically, when a PC is booted up a number of checks are performed to ensure the operating system’s integrity. More importantly, when things are found to be missing or corrupted, Microsoft in many cases is self-healing. So, by forcing this to happen, many (ok… most) problems can be overcome using this built-in capability.

The other advantage of restarting a device (and not just a PC!) is that you begin with a clean slate. Any prior memory corruption is swept away and assuming that both the operating system and applications are undamaged, things mostly come right

You should ALWAYS try this step before calling for IT Support.

  • Try shutting the PC down in the normal way (Start, Power, Shutdown)
    NB: Don’t choose Restart as this is not a 100% shutdown and won’t necessarily sweep away hardware issues you might be enountering
  • If the normal shutdown method above doesn’t work, try a “hard reset” – hold your finger on the power button for 5-10 seconds, until the PC lights and screen turn off – this forces the motherboard to shut down.
    NB: This is a last resort method to force your computer to shut down and should only be used when all other options are exhausted
  • Regardless of the shutdown method you use, wait a full 30 seconds and then turn the PC back on using the power button
    NB: This startup may take a while. If Windows has not been closed down cleanly it will take time to tidy things up!
  • Once you PC is up and running again I (strongly) recommend closing it down in the normal way (Start, Power, Shutdown) and then restarting.

Hint: In the unlikely event that a “hard reset” doesn’t shut your PC or laptop down, you still have one more option. On a Desktop or All-in-1, just pull the power plug out of the wall. On a laptop, pull out the power cord from the side of the laptop AND if it’s easy to do, remove the battery – if you can’t easily remove the battery, call your Geek!

Step 5
Check your Cables, Batteries & Plugs

This especially applies when peripherals don’t work (incl hard disks, printers, mice and keyboards).

  • Check that the wall power outlets are turned ON for your Laptop and any peripheral devices you may be trying to use – eg hard disk or printer.
  • Check that the device end of the power cord is still properly plugged in
  • Check that device cables are fully plugged into your PC – try pulling USB plugs out and inserting them again (you can safely do this while the PC is running)
  • If a USB device is persistently not working, try plugging it into a different USB port
  • If your wireless accessories (the ones with dongles) have switches on them, make sure they are turned on
  • If you are using wireless accessories, check the batteries (esp keyboards and mice). Batteries in these devices only last 6-12 months
  • Move any dongles to a different USB port
  • Try unplugging USB devices, rebooting the PC and then re-plugging the device into the PC. Most devices will give a plink-plunk sound when Windows recognises them

Step 6
Reset your (wifi) Network

This especially applies when you can’t get your device to “talk” to the Internet or your wifi printer has stopped “talking” to your PC, or smartphones

You definitely should try these steps before calling your Internet Service Providor (ISP)

  • Check that you aren’t in the middle of a general power cut (remember, laptops keep running when there’s no mains power!)
  • Shut the PC down in the normal way (Start, Power, Shutdown)
  • If you are having problems with wifi printing turn your printer off
  • Turn your modem/router off by removing its power cord from  the back of the device (this is the device supplied by your ISP – the one with all the flashing lights)
  • Once everything is turned off, wait 1 full minute
  • Plug the modem router cord back in. Wait for a full 3 minutes to allow the modem router to completely power-up and reconnect to your ISP
  • Turn the printer back on and wait a full minute for it to restart and reconnect to the modem/router
  • Turn your PC or laptop back on

NB: Do not ever attempt to reset your modem/router. Rebuilding your network is a specialised task best left to the GEEKs!

Hint: Its a good idea to be familier with the “normal” light sequence on your modem/router. When nothing much (wifi-wise) is happening around your home, these lights will blink in a rythmic pattern and some will always be on. Write this down what’s happening to each light in your own words and if anything goes wrong, you can advise the ISP Helpdesk what’s different. Eg. Power light on, Internet light on, wifi light blinking, LAN1 light blinking etc

Step Last
Come to a How Do I…? Workshop or Call your GEEK

If you’ve followed all the instructions above (relevant to your issue) and still have a problem, there’s no option but to call for IT Support. This time though, when they ask what you’ve done to try and resolve the problem yourself, you can tell them and they’ll be impressed! More importantly, you’ll probably save yourself money because the GEEK won’t need to perform all these steps him/herself.

SeniorNet Kapiti Members are always welcome to come to a How Do I…? Workshop where they can discuss their problem with one of our expert Tutors. Bring your laptop /  All-in-1, power cords, peripherals and passwords please. We don’t profess to be GEEKS but 9 times out of 10, we can fix your problem for next to nothing and if we don’t know how to fix it, we’ll tell you and point you in the direction of more knowledgeable assistance.

To find our next How Do I…? Workshop date and time, click on the Workshops item in the Menu above.

This post was originally submitted by Peter Jones (Technical Officer)
This post is based on an article on the Stuff Website here